From the 2Mass Image Gallery
RCW 103, a young supernova remnant (SNR) in the Milky Way, is less than 1 degree from the Plane of the Galaxy. As a result, the interstellar extinction along the line of sight to the SNR is about 4.5 visual magnitudes . In the near-infrared 2MASS image, one sees filamentary emission of a bluish-green color, forming what appears to be an incomplete shell, with some fainter emission interior to this partial shell, surrounded by reddish emission, particularly in the southeast. The red color is from molecular hydrogen (H2) line emission at 2.12 µm. The blue-green color is [Fe II] (forbidden singly-ionized iron) line emission at 1.64 µm. The morphology of the [Fe II] emission identically traces out the optical line emission, and that the H2 emission arises from a region outside the SNR, as seen at optical, radio, and X-ray wavelengths. The H2 emission is from molecular gas around the SNR which has not yet been reached by the fast-moving (~1200 km/s) shock wave, but is most likely a dense molecular cloud heated by the X-rays being emitted by the shock. The remnant likely has an age of only about 1000 years, arising from the explosion of a massive star. The nature of the progenitor star can be inferred from the presence of a 69-millisecond-period radio and X-ray pulsar near RCW 103 ; pulsars are rapidly rotating neutron stars, and neutron stars are the remnant collapsed cores of stars more massive than about 8 times the mass of our Sun. The picture that emerges is of a massive star not unexpectedly ending its life explosively within its natal gas cloud. Image mosaic by S. Van Dyk (IPAC).
This image is a three-band composite constructed from 2MASS Atlas Images. They are infrared images and therefore must be mapped into false colors: J light (1.2 µm) into blue, H light (1.6 µm) in green, and Ks light (2.2 µm) into red. The Atlas Images are produced in the 2MASS Production Processing System. North is up and east is to the left.
The text is based on accompanying on-line materials.
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Last Modified On: Monday, December 18, 2000